Bears Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2022 Season
In 2021, the Chicago Bears drafted Justin Fields to be their franchise quarterback, and they wasted no time getting him onto the field. The 23-year-old played in 12 games and made 10 starts as a rookie.
Although there were some growing pains, it was valuable experience for the talented young signal-caller.
The Bears didn't have a first-round draft pick this year, as they traded away that selection in order to move up and take Fields at No. 11 in 2021. But they still made 11 selections over the final two days of the draft, so they could have a sizable rookie class in 2022.
Like Fields last year, some of these rookies could get substantial playing time early in their careers. Chicago is trying to construct a core that will lead it to future success, and several of these new players could become key parts of that, perhaps even as soon as this season.
Here's a look at the members of the Bears' 2022 rookie class who are most likely to make an instant impact.
Kyler Gordon, CB
Kyler Gordon became the first player taken by the Bears in the 2022 NFL draft when they selected him with the No. 39 overall pick in the second round.
Although the Washington cornerback wasn't picked in the first round, he could still be one of the best rookie defensive backs in the league this upcoming season.
According to Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Chicago, Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said the team plans to play Gordon "solely at outside corner right now," even though he has the ability to also play in the slot. It seems Chicago knows how it wants to use him early in his career.
It's possible the 22-year-old will also start on the outside, perhaps even as soon as Week 1. Jaylon Johnson is a sure starter at one spot after the success he had over his first two NFL seasons, but there will likely be an opportunity for Gordon to win the other outside CB job.
Gordon spent four years at Washington, and he consistently got better. In 2021, he notched his first two career interceptions and provided strong coverage for the Huskies. There's a good chance that level of play will carry over to his debut season for the Bears.
Jaquan Brisker, S
Could the Bears have two rookie starters in the secondary early in the 2022 season? It sure seems like a possibility.
In addition to Gordon, Chicago selected former Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker in the second round of the draft, and it may not take long for him to have a substantial role either.
The 23-year-old fared well for the Nittany Lions over the past three seasons, recording 151 tackles and five interceptions in 34 games while showing the type of impact he can make for a defense. And with the Bears needing a safety to start next to Eddie Jackson in 2022, he could be a great fit.
New Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus came away impressed with Brisker following the team's recent rookie minicamp.
"The hitting is there," he said, per Schrock. "The old term that a lot of my mentors used to use is quickness, instincts and striking ability, and that's what he has. Those things still are true today as they were years ago. He has those attributes, and we're excited about where he is. What a positive energy guy, too, and you can really feel the light coming out of him."
If Brisker is already at that level, he could develop into a special player for the Bears defense. Time on the field early in his career may help him get to that point quicker.
Velus Jones Jr., WR
If Fields is going to be successful and become the Bears' franchise quarterback, he needs to have strong receivers to throw the ball to. And after Allen Robinson II signed with the Los Angeles Rams during free agency, Chicago needed to improve its receiving corps.
Although the Bears didn't address the position until the third round of the draft, they came away with Velus Jones Jr., who may provide tremendous value. He may also immediately battle for playing time in a unit headlined by Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle.
Jones turned 25 last week, so he's older than most rookies. But he also brings a ton of college experience, as he spent four years at USC and two at Tennessee. He mostly contributed in the return game from 2016 to 2020 before breaking out at receiver with the Vols in 2021 when he had 807 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games.
During training camp and the preseason, Jones should have an opportunity to prove he's ready for a sizable role in Chicago's passing attack. Given the lack of depth the Bears have at the position, he has a good chance to be a contributor in 2022.